Thursday, 25 February 2016

Conference: a lot done, a lot to do!

From the EAI Twitter account:
Our conference, 70 years of Environmental Archaeology in Ireland, took place last week, and it was a great success. More than 50 people participated in the conference, which was held at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin. Most of our participants were from Ireland, and we were delighted to see several researchers make the journey over from Britain.

I opened the conference with a few comments on environmental archaeology in Ireland today and why the conference was organised. Our morning session was chaired by Ben Gearey (University College Cork), and we heard from speakers on many exciting aspects of research in Ireland, including woodlands and wetlands, bog bodies, climate change, agriculture and urban environments. Something for everyone! We learned about the extraordinary variety of analyses that can be undertaken in environmental archaeology and the importance of inter-disciplinary approaches in tackling the big questions. The morning finished with a great overview from Mick Monk (University College Cork), who has been one of the leading lights and inspiring mentors for environmental archaeology in Ireland over the past few decades.

Then in the afternoon session, we decided to address some of the main issues in environmental archaeology in Ireland today:
---National Research Priorities
---Education and Training, including CPD and skills gaps
---Digital Data Curation and Accessibility
---Long-term retention of environmental remains and legacy issues
---Professional practice and Regulatory policies

We asked participants to think about what we are doing right. What we are doing wrong? What future directions should we take? Participants were split into small groups with just a few minutes to discuss each issue. This is an approach that really focuses the mind and also makes it all a bit more fun!

Then we heard from our invited discussants, Gill Campbell (Historic England) and Prof. Chris Caseldine (Exeter University) who reflected upon their international experience to suggest ‘where next’ for colleagues in Ireland. The final open discussion was chaired by Dr Michael Ryan, who kept us on track, encouraging us to think about what we wanted and how to achieve it. Now we have to get out there and do it!

A full conference report will appear in the newsletter for the Association for Environmental Archaeology later this year.

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